(My First) Startup Weekend

Startup Weekend is an experience I would recommend for anyone. It will not be an easy weekend but you will learn an incredible amount and have a once in a lifetime experience. You have 54 hours to work with a team you probably don’t know and go from idea to reality with a business plan. It felt like nearly every hour we were working through some huge issue that almost broke our idea. Learning how to work as a team, delegate tasks and trust people are core elements to success in a project like this. Before I introduce my team’s project I want to share two main lessons that stick with me from my experience:

  1. If you don’t try you can’t get better – This is deeply rooted in our fear of failure both personally and externally – being seen as a fool by others. When we had to pitch our ideas on the first day I remember Nick Stevens saying, ‘if you don’t pitch it, it can’t get better.’ That reminded me of a talk I want to about Y Combinator’s secret sauce hosted by the Commonwealth Club where (as I may incorrectly attribute) Harj Taggar said, “many people incorrectly asses risk.” Taggar’s point was that you will make mistakes but that actual risk of those mistakes is very small when compared to your whole life. I now think also of Chris Hadfield’s TED talk where he says “What is the real thing you should be afraid of? (…) By looking at the difference between perceived danger and actual danger, you can fundamentally change your reaction. (…) It allows you to go places, see things and do things that otherwise would be completely denied to you.” To do anything that means something requires risk and the actual danger of that risk is usually miniscule. Often we get stuck feeling that danger; it makes us afraid to move. This is a normal human reaction. But it is important to confront that. Ideas must be shared with the world in order to get better.
  2. You will fail many times but you will also get better each time – Most people give up too easily. Here I think of Larry Smith’s TED talk on ‘why you will fail to have a great career’ where he talks about making excuses to give up. In a recent post in Fast Company about building the next Pixar there is a section on patience vs pivots and understanding when to stay the course. Sometimes it is important to pivot – to change directions – but it is always important to have patience and persistence to push through the challenges because, even if you pivot, what you do may change, but your fundamental purpose remains the same. There were many points during the Startup Weekend experience where I and my team felt like giving up but we pushed through, we adapted and we got getter each time. We actually got better at adapting to challenges so that toward the end we made changes with less struggle.

The topic for this Startup Weekend was health in Denmark. My team, the Pill-Poppers, focused on helping elderly take their medication correctly, avoiding potential death and unnecessary medical costs. We used a new packaging mechanism that had been developed, named dosage packs, and built a pill dispenser system that offers a sense of freedom from medication. I was chosen to give the final presentation for our team. Below are the slides. We use the story of Jesper’s grandfather, Eric, who was hospitalized because he to took his medication too many times in one day.

Pill-Poppers Presentation cover

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